Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jared Golden along with Senator Angus King, Representative Chellie Pingree, and Governor Janet Mills are calling on the Biden Administration to include the views of Maine fishing communities in proposals for leasing commercial offshore wind areas in the Gulf Of Maine. In a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Maine leaders request that any wind development avoid key lobstering areas and urge the Bureau to “minimize all potential conflicts” between offshore wind and the fishing industry.
This letter is in response to the publication (PDF) of the Gulf of Maine’s Call for Information and Nominations (Call). The Call invites public comment on, and assesses interest in, possible commercial wind energy development in areas offshore Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
“Fishermen and women across the country and in Maine have expressed several concerns regarding offshore wind development. Maine’s fishermen have worked for decades with state and federal regulators on numerous rules and regulations to preserve the fisheries and the varied species that inhabit those waters. The Call identifies 9.8 million acres to site potential commercial offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Maine. This includes Lobster Management Area (LMA) 1 and three areas that are closed to fishing either permanently or seasonally. Although BOEM reduced the acreage initially proposed by 29 percent, it failed to remove these key areas, and instead specifically requested additional comments on these areas,” the Delegation wrote.
In the letter, the lawmakers urge BOEM to swiftly remove Lobster Management Area 1 (LMA 1), a critical fishing ground for Maine's lobster, from consideration for commercial offshore wind leasing. They also highlight that it is inconsistent for areas that are closed to fishing to be open for commercial offshore wind leasing. The delegation stressed the vital role that fishing plays in Maine, with 94% of the country's lobster coming from the Gulf of Maine. They also emphasized the need for meaningful engagement with fishermen and other ocean users to minimize conflicts and protect the existing marine economy.
“Siting offshore wind development outside of LMA 1 would avoid conflict not only with the majority of Maine’s commercial fishing industry, but also with recreational fishermen and other commercial and recreational marine users,” the Delegation continued. “Our fishing community feels that their voices are not being heard. A straightforward way for BOEM to show it is committed to minimizing impact to fisheries would be to adopt the fishing community’s primary request: remove LMA 1 from consideration.”
“In addition, parts of the Massachusetts Restricted Area, the Great South Channel Restricted Area, and most of the LMA 1 restricted area remain on the table for offshore wind development. All of these areas are closed to fishing either permanently or seasonally due to the potential presence of a North Atlantic Right Whale. If an area is closed to fishing, how could this area still be considered for offshore wind development? This is inconsistent with the fact that our fishermen are required to comply with closures in these areas.” the Delegation wrote.
The letter also reiterates the potential for offshore wind, if done responsibly, to create good-paying jobs in Maine and further floating offshore wind technology pioneered by the University of Maine.
On October 13, 2021, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced an ambitious offshore wind leasing strategy for 2021-2025, which includes the goal of holding a commercial lease sale within the Gulf of Maine in 2024. For more information on BOEM’s plans for commercial offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Maine can be viewed here.